Delta marks new era with $160M LaGuardia expansion

Photo by Ken Maldonado
By Phil Corso

One of the country’s busiest airports is about to get even busier.

Delta Air Lines executives joined with New York City officials April 11 at LaGuardia Airport to break ground on a $160 million terminal project, ushering in a new era of airport expansion.

The project included the construction of a 630-foot connection bridge between the airport’s Terminals C and D, allowing customers to walk between terminals without having to go through security again, the airport said.

The new bridge headlined LaGuardia’s single-largest expansion project in more than 40 years, according to Delta, and renovation plans also included a new Delta Sky Club in Terminal C and expanded security lanes in both terminals.

“This investment will support a major expansion by Delta in the most competitive aviation market in the world,” said Gail Grimmett, senior vice president in New York. “Our goal is to become the preferred carrier for the business traveler in New York.”

Grimmett said the project would create 700 new jobs with an additional 135 construction positions in the process. The project’s completion, scheduled for July 11, will include service to 26 new cities and nearly 100 new daily flights, the airport said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the many months of negotiations with Delta were worth it in reaching an agreement that fuels the city’s tourism initiatives. He said the city drew 50.5 million tourists in 2011, and with help from Delta’s latest project, as many as 55 million visitors may pass through by 2015.

“Delta’s investment in increasing and modernizing airport services at New York’s airports is money well spent,” Bloomberg said. “New York is the nation’s No. 1 travel destination and, despite the sluggish national economy, we’ve still come off a record year for tourism.”

Bloomberg said the expansion was appropriate to match a growing number of flyers in and out of the city with more than 105 million passengers traveling through last year, a 25 percent increase from 10 years ago.

The work coincides with a $1.2 billion enhancement of Delta’s facilities at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the airport operates an international hub.

“All together, with our expansion projects at JFK and LaGuardia, Delta is investing nearly $1.4 billion in our New York airport facilities,” Delta Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson said. “No other airline is approaching that level of commitment to New York in the next 12 months.”

LaGuardia Airport serviced more than 12 million passengers in 2010, according to a study by the Air Carrier Activity Information System, ranking the facility 20th out of the country’s 50 busiest airports. JFK ranked sixth, with more than 22 million passengers.

“Investment in aviation infrastructure is one of the major ways to position the New York metropolitan region for the projected growth in passengers in the coming decades,” said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. “Delta is helping both our New York airports lay the critical groundwork for the region’s future economic growth.”

New York Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy said city and state officials worked closely with Delta in establishing a partnership that kept taxpayer dollars away from the expansion.

“Today’s groundbreaking demonstrates how by partnering with businesses we can create hundreds of good jobs for New Yorkers,” Duffy said. “This announcement gives travelers more options for flying across our state and provides a significant boost to our local economy.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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